Carl Sommer presents a popular study of the faith and life of the early Christians in the first two centuries after Christ. Using documentary evidence and archaeological records, Sommers reconstructs the lives of the early Christians in order to introduce the treasures of early Christianity to a large number of modern readers. By studying how the early Christians believed and lived, we can learn many valuable lessons on what to avoid and what to strive for today. The Roman world had many facets that are strikingly similar to elements of modern life. Sommer’s aim is to help the reader learn how to transform modern culture with the power of the Gospel as was first done in the centuries of the early Church.
For many of us who have made the journey into the Catholic Church, reading the early Church Fathers was a crucial turning point. But why? Why should a Christian care about what the early Church believed? After all, we have the inspired writings of the apostles; what more do we need?
To put it simply, Christians should care about what the early Church Fathers believed and taught because they are the closest sources we have to the apostles themselves. And because of this, their writings can help us understand what the apostles meant by what they wrote in their NT documents.
St Ignatius of Antioch, for example, was a disciple of John the apostle. St Irenaeus bishop of Lyon was a disciple of Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of John. Catholics understand that the fathers weren’t inspired or infallible in the sense that we believe the apostles to have been. But they learned their doctrine directly from the apostles and those taught by the apostles and so provide a unique window into the apostolic mind. The fathers function as a lens through which the meaning of things said in the New Testament can often be brought into focus.
For instance, if we find the fathers to be unanimous in their teaching on a particular issue — as they are on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist or the sacramental nature of Baptism — we can have strong confidence that this is the correct understanding of that issue.
Hear Our Stories
Here are a collection of testimonies from converts to Catholicism for whom the discovery of the Early Church Fathers played an important role.
“Taking a course in the Church Fathers was a life-changing experience for me.”
Msgr. Jeffrey Steensen
Why Church History Matters
There are so many great resources available for learning about the early Church Fathers. Here are some of our favorites.
Talks on the Early Church from the CHNetwork
How Do We Know the Early Church
Dr. William Marshner
History and the Necessity of Continuity
Fr. Ray Ryland
Scripture and the Early Church
Fr. Mitch Pacwa
Breaking through the Myths of History
Kenneth J. Howell, PhD
Becoming Deep in History
Kenneth J. Howell, PhD
Recommended Articles & Documents
The Fathers Know Best
by Jimmy Akin
The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church is a unique resource. It’s specially designed to make it easy for you to find the information you want and need, with more than 900 quotations from the writings of the early Church Fathers, as well as from rare and important documents dating back to the dawn of Christian history and all arranged topically. This is a really great resources.
by Rod Bennett
What was the early Church like? Contrary to popular belief, Rod Bennett shows there is a reliable way to know. Four ancient Christian writers–four witnesses to early Christianity –left us an extensive body of documentation on this vital subject, and this book brings their fascinating testimony to life for modern believers. With all the power and drama of a gripping novel, this book is a journey of discovery of ancient and beautiful truths through the lives of four great saints of the early Church–Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus of Lyons.
The Apostasy that Wasn’t: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church
by Rod Bennett
Rod Bennett follows up his bestseller Four Witnesses with an account of the historical events that led him out of his own belief in apostasy theory and into the Catholic Church. The theory goes like this: Just a few centuries after Christ s death, around the time the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, the true Faith suffered a catastrophic falling-away. The simple truths of the gospel became so obscured by worldliness and pagan idolatry kicking off the Dark Ages of Catholicism that Christianity required a complete reboot. Rod narrates the drama of the early Church s fight to preserve Christian orthodoxy intact even as powerful forces try to smash it to pieces.
Clement of Rome & The Didache
by Dr. Kenneth Howell
We have here a new translation and theological commentary on the Letter to the Corinthians by Clement of Rome and the Didache, two of the most important documents from the earliest days of Christianity. Here we stand at the very fount of Christian teaching outside the New Testament. Clement’s letter and the Didache reveal how Christians were implementing and living out the faith taught by Jesus and passed on by the twelve apostles. The constant threat of schism and doctrinal deviation prompted these earliest writers to pen some of the most enduring wisdom known to the church.
The Fathers of the Church
by Mike Aquilina
We hear the voices of the early Church Fathers even today. Their teachings, their guidance, their insights, and their sacrifice shaped the Catholic Church. They defined the canon of Scripture, developed our creeds and forms of worship. They defined Christianity’s distinctive moral sense. But who were they? What can we learn from their ancient teachings? What can the Fathers teach us in the 21st century? This is a rich resource for anyone interested in learning about the Church Fathers and their legacy.